I enjoy visiting label converters, learning new things and seeing how different companies solve similar problems in very different ways that differentiate companies. It gives the company its identity, often in the image of the owner, with great expertise on the processes employed. It is informative to talk to label people about their operations. Listening to their pride and enthusiasm of how they produce innovative, beautiful products. But (there’s always a but) this leads to seeing the label world from their perspective and there are deep-rooted perceptions. Some may not be.
Cost of manufacture is one topic that cannot be a closed book. Too often the potential benefits of an alternative technology are ignored because the view of the capability is not properly known. It is difficult to really know the true cost of manufacture – it depends on workload as well as work mix and will vary – and when considering a new investment a particular technology may be discounted because of the perception of its cost, rather than what it really might be able to deliver for a business. It can be an easy choice to buy another machine, the latest model with shorter set-up time perhaps. But this may not be the choice that will deliver the most profit to a business over the life of the investment. Doing things differently: digital vs flexo; near-line or on-line finishing; hybrid flexo/inkjet capability will have different costs for a variety of label jobs. All are used successfully by different companies, meeting their customers demands.
Label technology is developing rapidly and this changes cost of manufacture, with the trend downward. Comparative cost models are useful tools that determine the most effective process to produce certain run lengths. Smithers Pira has developed a methodology used by machine producers as well as converters that identifies cost effective label printing technology, one result is shown in the figure below.
The key point about this approach is that the costs of production are changing constantly as technology develops. The trouble with having a fixed view of the world is you can miss opportunities. When a business ignores a method, they can be missing a huge opportunity to print their mix of work more effectively. When choosing a new machine don’t ignore any available methodology, even the one that was not good enough quality or too expensive last year. This year it will be different!
This blog was written by Dr Sean Smyth – consultant, Smithers Pira, 13 April 2018.